A FATHER has told of identifying the bodies of his two teenage daughters killed in the “chaos” and “mayhem” of the Hillsborough disaster.
Trevor Hicks was on the Leppings Lane terrace when he realised fans were being crushed in pens behind the goals where his daughters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, were standing.
The Liverpool season ticket holders, with his former wife Jenni, who was sitting in another part of the Hillsborough ground, had travelled from their home in Middlesex and arrived at the ground at 2pm for the FA Cup Semi-final against Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.
But once inside, his teenage daughters had “given him the slip” and went to stand in pens behind the goal with young friends rather than “having their old man around” who stood in another part of the terraces, Mr Hicks told the Hillsborough inquest.
His daughters were among the 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death in the central pens behind the goal on the Leppings Lane terrace as the match began.
Mr Hicks, who became a key figure in the Hillsborough Family Support Group, told the inquest in Warrington ten minutes before the 3pm kick off from his position on the terrace he realised there was a serious problem of crushing in the central pens.
Mr Hicks said: “Some things burn in your memory but I saw an old chap, because I was much younger then, grey haired like me in a grey suit. He really looked like he was dying stood up and looked unconscious and other people around him looked in distress.”
Mr Hicks was standing on the terrace below the police control box and had tried to alert an officer to what was happening.
He said: “We were calling up at him and then as I reported several times, he eventually turned to me and told me to, ‘shut my f*****g prattle’.”
He added: “It was just getting worse. I’ve said this before, it smelt worse. You could sense that things were really, really bad.”
Mr Hicks said he then saw a girl with Doc Martin boots and long curly hair being passed over the fence onto the pitch - and recognised it was his daughter Victoria.
He got onto the pitch where he described the condition as “chaos” and found both his daughters laid out side by side.
Two men were giving mouth to mouth and chest compressions to Sarah and he joined another man attempting to revive his other daughter Victoria.
Mr Hicks said it was “mayhem on the pitch” with no medical assistance or equipment save for a teenage St John’s Ambulance cadet who was in a “worse state than me”.
He went in an ambulance with Victoria to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, after being assured Sarah would be in the next ambulance.
His daughter had a “flicker of a pulse” and was taken into a cubicle at the hospital.
Mr Hicks continued: “I was kicked out, as I expected, and about 10 to 15 minutes later Pc McGuinness told me she was dead.
“As soon as I knew there was nothing I could do for Vicky my attention turned to find Sarah and what I could do for her.
“Again it was utter chaos in the hospital, people milling everywhere, there was casualties, bodies, people, police officers.
“The hospital staff were all over the place.”
Reunited with his wife they went to find Sarah at a “casualty bureau” at the gym at Hillsborough - being used by police as a temporary mortuary.
They were taken into a room with a police officer pinning Polaroid photos of the dead on to a wall.
Mr Hicks continued: “Jenni actually said to him, ‘So many?’ The police officer there said, ‘They’re not all there yet love’ and that obviously hit us like a brick.”
The parents then saw amongst the photos of the dead, a picture of their other daughter Sarah.
Mr Hicks said: “Basically they brought the girls out on to trolleys.
“They unzipped the body bags so we could identify them formally.
“Bear in mind Jenni had not seen either of them, she wanted to give them a hug, which she did and we noticed Sarah’s body was quite warm.”
Mr Hicks said he then gave a statement to police, where he was repeatedly asked about “how much we had had to drink” before the couple travelled back to their home in the south.
Mr Hicks said the next day they were “besieged by the press.”
Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests, put it to Mr Hicks that following the disaster he had a “number of questions and concerns,” and he became a key figure in the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
Mr Hicks said the Taylor Inquiry into the disaster, “dealt with most things” but the first inquests, concluding in 1991 “tried to re-write it”.
After a long campaign by victims’ families, the original inquest verdict of accidental death was quashed in the High Court in 2012, leading to the fresh inquests now being held in Warrington.
Michael Mansfield QC, representing the families of some of the victims, said some earlier witnesses had suggested Liverpool fans were “blind drunk” and asked Mr Hicks if he had any recollection of that.
Mr Hicks said: “No. I’ll probably get told off, but it really does brass me off to have to listen to that.”
Coroner Lord Justice Goldring replied: “I’m not going to tell you off Mr Hicks.”
Mr Mansfield asked about suggestions of Liverpool fans “pushing and shoving” to get into the ground an hour before kick off.
Mr Hicks said: “Again, I say nonsense. I must have been at a different game.”
He was also asked about Liverpool fans having a “reputation” for turning up without tickets and “bunking in” football grounds.
The witness said it was “one of the problems of football games in those days” but Liverpool fans were “no different to any other club”.
Separately, a “toady” letter from a police chief offering to “give some insight” into the Hillsborough disaster to his new political master at the Home Office was shown the jury at the inquest.
Richard Wells, the then-chief constable of South Yorkshire Police - the force involved in the disaster, wrote in May 1997 to home secretary Jack Straw in the new Labour government, “to see if we can give you some insight into the complexities” of the disaster and its aftermath.
Mr Wells, beginning the letter, “Dear Jack” told the home secretary that Trevor Hicks - a leading Hillsborough campaigner - was a “decent man” who lost his daughters in the disaster, and his marriage, but was “often acting as a spokesman for a group whose views he doesn’t fully share but not quite know how to jump off the tiger”.
Mr Wells claimed Mr Hicks was “prepared privately to concede the contributory role of Liverpool fans”.
He ended the letter, “If we can help do let me know, with kind regards.”
Mr Wells took over the force the year after the 1989 disaster and played no part in events at Hillsborough on the day, the inquest heard.
Christina Lambert QC, counsel to the inquests, put it to Mr Hicks whether as the letter claimed he could not “jump off the tiger” as he was leading the Hillsborough campaigners.
“I was the tiger,” Mr Hicks responded.
Mr Hicks was asked whether he ever accepted Liverpool fans played a “contributory role” as stated in the letter.
Mr Hicks said: “In the context it is written no, I have never equally said that everybody was there on the day was a little angel, that would be a nonsense as well.
“I happen to think that’s a rather toady letter written to the new boss and I think it should be seen in that light.
“I find the whole letter a bit of a nonsense really.
“We were told in the early days we would be taking on the establishment and that turned out to be very much the case.”